NFL: Vilma’s defamation suit against Goodell dismissed by judge

Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 5:48pm

A judge dismissed Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed.

U.S. District Court Judge Helen Berrigan criticized how Goodell handled the suspensions issued to the four New Orleans Saints players involved in the team's bounty program, but said the claims made by Vilma did not support his lawsuit.

"While the Court is extremely disturbed by the fundamental lack of due process in Goodell's denying the players the identities of and the right to confront their accusers, that was substantially rectified later in the process," Berrigan said in her ruling. "So while the process was initially procedurally flawed, the statements were ultimately found to have enough support to defeat the defamation claims."

"Even though this matter has been pending only since May of this year, it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself, and calls for closure. The Court nonetheless believes that had this matter been handled in a less heavy handed way, with greater fairness toward the players and the pressures they face, this litigation and the related cases would not have been necessary."

Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, told NFL.com's Albert Breer in December, that the player wanted to continue the lawsuit since his reputation was damaged by being issued a suspension by Goodell for being involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker chose to pursue the lawsuit after his season-long suspension was vacated by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue last month. He originally filed the lawsuit against Goodell in May. Goodell filed a motion in July to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Vilma was originally suspended one year by Goodell for his role in the Saints bounty program. His suspension -- along with those of Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove -- were eventually dissolved by Tagliabue on appeal. Tagliabue dropped the suspensions but backed the findings of Goodell's investigation.

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